Contrary to the impression a group of Igbo leaders under the aegis of ‘Ohaneze caretaker’ led by Ralph Obioha created when they visited the president-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari that Jonathan deceived Ndigbo, the president of Ohaneze in Anambra state, Dr. Chris Eluemuno has come down hard on the Ralph Obioha-led group insisting that President Jonathan did his best for Ndigbo. In this chat with Tony Oraeki, he dismissed the group saying that they did not speak for Ohaneze. Excerpt
You recently reacted on the visit made by some Ohaneze leaders to the President-Elect, Gen. Buhari and it appears you are uncomfortable with such approach. Do you perceive any negative implication on Ndigbo by such visit?
It is not just the visit to Buhari that really triggered our anger but the statement made in the presence of Buhari.
Number one, the present equation that they were Caretaker Committee of Ohaneze Ndigbo, you know they created the impression that Ohaneze Ndigbo is not united which is very very wrong. There is nothing like Caretaker Committee in Ohaneze Ndigbo and that is the first and foremost.
Ohaneze is united and representing the interest of the entire Igbo nation. I don’t know the interest the so called Caretaker Committee is representing.
Number two, going there to lie before the President-elect that President Jonathan deceived Ndigbo, that is most discouraging, even Gen. Buhari himself who was being told has information about the Second Niger Bridge. He knows that Jonathan did not deceive Ndigbo that the Second Niger Bridge is ongoing and work is going on there.
Jonathan never deceived Ndigbo on the Second Niger Bridge. The Second Niger Bridge is a reality and if you go there, you find that work is going on there.
I am sure that Gen. Buhari has information on that and then knows that these people who came to see him as Caretaker Committee is just grandstanding, that they are nothing.
Ohaneze Ndigbo does not know anything about them and going there to begin to canvass for position for Ndigbo shows that they don’t even have confidence in themselves.
The Igboman has confidence in himself; the igboman is not a beggar. The issue they were trying to canvass was an issue of constitutionality.
Whether Buhari likes it or not, he will give positions to Ndigbo, especially constitutional positions. That Secretary to the Federal Government they are canvassing for an individual, Buhari knows whom he wants to give it to. You don’t need to canvass for it.
Canvassing for it means that you don’t even know where you stand and you don’t even have confidence in where you are coming from. But the Igboman is strong in this country and can never be intimidated.
That visit is not in the interest of Ndigbo and I want to let the President-elect know it that Ndigbo are not begging for positions. If he knows what is right, he should do it for Ndigbo. And I am happy to read that he said he was not going to marginalize any section of the country. We are not afraid of marginalization. After all the Yorubas have been in opposition for many years, nobody marginalized them.
Some Hausa states have been in opposition for many years, nobody marginalized them. So, we are not afraid of marginalization because nobody can marginalize Ndigbo.
However, that visit is uncalled for, the statement they made there is unnecessary and we condemn it in its entirety.
Are you now saying that those statements made by the Ohaneze leaders were not discussed in-house before visiting the President-elect?
I want to correct this impression, they are not Ohaneze leaders. They are not.
These are APC members who ganged up and called themselves Caretaker Committee of Ohaneze. There is nothing like Caretaker Committee in Ohaneze.
Ohaneze is led by Agariwey who is the President General. As I said earlier, there is nothing like Caretaker Committee in Ohaneze. Those people are APC stakeholders who went to see Buhari and maybe they used that opportunity to use Ohaneze as a stepping stone to get to the President-elect. They don’t belong to Ohaneze and we don’t know anything about Caretaker Committee. Chief Raph Obioha is not a member of Ohaneze executive committee. He is on his own.
What he told the President-elect, if you read his report, is that the group was put together by Senator Chris Ngige and handed over to Chief Mbazulike Amaechi to run and that they worked for the President-elect during the campaign. That was what he said in his statement. So, they cannot be Ohaneze. How can they be?
Ohaneze is an elected body and Ohaneze did not send anybody to go there. They are just APC stakeholders and for them to go there to say that President Jonathan deceived Ndigbo, it is very unfortunate because Jonathan did not deceive Ndigbo in respect of the Second Niger Bridge.
So, you are so confident that Ndigbo really benefited from President Jonathan?
A lot. If Buhari wants to overdo what Jonathan has done, we are yet to see it. Jonathan has done the much he could as a President and we appreciate that.
What we want is somebody who will do better than what we have seen before. So, if Buhari wants to outdo Jonathan, let him go ahead, we are watching and we will appreciate him, but for now, we are grateful to Jonathan for what he did for Ndigbo.
Are you also comfortable that the Second Niger Bridge will be tolled when completed, and in reverse, the President-elect promised that it will be toll-free
Construction of the bridge is ongoing, when we get to the bridge; we know how to cross it.
The first and foremost thing is to get the bridge completed. After all, the federal government said they are going to re-introduce toll gates on the roads. Even in foreign countries, they pay tolls like in USA. There are a lot of toll gates in USA.
There is nothing wrong with tolling a road. If the bridge is constructed and commercialised, fine, but it is not going to be done just on Niger Bridge, it will be done on all the bridges owned by the federal government in the country.
So, they cannot just select Second Niger Bridge and introduce a toll there and leave other federal bridges like Third Mainland Bridge. If no toll is being paid at this bridge, then no toll should be paid.
Some Igbo leaders are clamouring for the payment of compensation by the federal government for their abandoned properties during the Nigeria/Biafra civil war. Do you think that such approach is realizable this time around?
Well, nothing is impossible. Those who believe that such is realizable; we will not discourage them from doing that.
I read in the newspaper that United Nations has invited those clamouring for Biafran nation to come to New York in the month of June this year, to meet with United Nations. So, we cannot stop them from going.
Sometime ago, they were invited by the OAU in Addis Ababa and now the United Nations has invited them and Dr. Dozie Ikedife is the leader of the group that will go to meet the United Nations.
It is okay and we cannot stop them. All we want the country to know is that the Igbos have alternative, we have options. If they decide to marginalize and intimidate us in this country, we have options on what to do, self determination and the option is still open for us.